Your Rights During The Coronavirus Pandemic

I have been saddened to hear so many stories about Asians and Asian-Americans being treated badly during this current health crisis. This is riding on the heels of nasty rhetoric from the Trump administration regarding immigrants and refugees. It’s important to know that Federal, New York State and New York City law prohibits discrimination in employment, housing and public accomodations. New York City laws are the strongest of all, prohibiting discriminatory lending practices, retaliation, discriminatory harassment and bias-based profiling by law enforcement.

Who Is Protected From Discrimination?

The purpose of discrimination laws is to protect people that are vulnerable to being treated poorly in our culture. Treating somebody badly for personal reasons or grudges is not legally actionable as discrimination. For example, you can be denied employment because the owner of a business hates your sister or refused service in a restaurant because the manager doesn’t like your mom. In New York City law prohibits dicrimination based on:

  • Age
  • Alienage or citizenship status
  • Color
  • Disability
  • Gender (including sexual harassment)
  • Gender Identity
  • Marital status and partnership status
  • National origin
  • Pregnancy and Lactation Accommodations
  • Race
  • Religion/Creed
  • Sexual orientation
  • Status as a Veteran or Active Military Service Member

What Constitutes Discrimination?

Unreasonable fear stemming from prejudice or false information is never a defense to discrimination. It’s also important to remember that you do not actually have to be a member of the group the discrimination is based on, it’s enough that you are perceived to be. For example, if you a restaurant refuses to serve somebody saying that they “might have Coronavirus because they’re Chinese.” It doesn’t matter if the person is actually Japanese or Korean. The restaurant has broken the law by treating someone differently because of their perceived national origin. The same concept applies to all forms of “public accommodation,” including gyms, hair and nail salons, spas, grocery stores, entertainment facilities, pools, etc. 

How Does This Impact Your Right During This Health Crisis

The Coronavirus has spread throughout the World, with “community spread” just as likely to cause infection as people from outside the community. It is important to follow all rules and regulations issued by the government to protect the health of our entire population. That said, you cannot be singled out or excluded because of your real or perceived national origin or immigrant status for any type of service based on prejudice or irrational fear. If you’re a victim of discrimination, please call us so we can help to figure out next steps. It’s important to report each and every act of discrimination to the proper authorities.

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2020-03-15T13:21:34+00:00By |0 Comments

About the Author:

Senior Partner Ms. Wittenstein began working at the firm in 1985 as a managing paralegal, learning all the practices and procedures of the firm from Mr. Wittenstein and the staff. From 1995-1998, she attended CUNY Law School where she made a mark as a teaching assistant for Civil Rights leader Haywood Burns. She founded a Human Rights Delegation to Haiti and studied Constitutional Law with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Working at the Equal Opportunity Employment Commision (EEOC), she learned a great deal about Employment Discrimination matters. She brought her knowledge of the Personal Injury practice and her passion for Civil Rights to the firm when she was admitted to the Bar in 1999. In 2000, she became a partner and the firm name was changed to Wittenstein & Wittenstein, Esqs. PC.

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